It was William Shakespeare who first quoted the phrase "All the world's a stage," but he would not be the last. This evening across the western continents reporters were relying many of the bard's sayings and many other cliched excerpts to explain the historic event now just minutes away.
Dateline: New Nasiyirah, Iraq, November 1, 9:40 a.m.
"Testing, testing - one-two. There's a buzz, Grant." The earpiece entwined under Briana Bryce golden coiffure was registering static and she was visibly not happy. "Damn, somebody fix this. I've got less than 20 seconds to hook up with Trevor." Annoyed, she rustled the papers at the portable podium to her side. "Where's the damm teleprompter?"
"Computer glitz, Bri, they're working on it" came a quick, reassuring response from the news director Grant Larson as he moved levers and felt for the right decibel. "Camera one on Briana, camera two on sector one, three on sector two, three pan to other sectors and we'll jockey you in position for close-ups. Eye in the sky you've got to focus clearer. Bri, give me another test."
"Ah, perfect. Trevor, can you hear me?" Grant snapped, seeking affirmation on the other end of the uplink.
"You're coming in loud and clear. We're ten seconds out of commercial. Is Briana ready?" Trevor bleated as directors hooked up between New York and Iraq.
"All systems go." Grant coaxed his temperamental anchor, "You're on babe. Look beautiful."
"I always do, even in this wretched place," Briana Bryce shot back as the countdown echoed in her ear and she heard 'A-B roll, logo, intro and dissolve, 15 seconds and counting.' She readjusted her navy blue suit jacket and fluffed a flowing ridge of cream chiffon on the plunging neckline to better conceal her small microphone as the countdown continued. The hard creases of her mouth turned instantly upward into a saccharine smile as the red light signaled she was on the air. In balancing the sensitivity of egos that all television anchor persons possess, Grant took a chance and crossed his fingers. He had opted to have Trevor pass it to her as soon as he had rehashed the situation for late tuners. One-upsmanship is a fine art in the world of communications.
"Standing by in New Nasiriyah for Global News Network in our correspondent Briana Bryce. Briana, looks like the sun is shining bright."
"Thank you, Trevor. Yes, it's a beautiful day. In the low 80's and we are less than minutes from the festivities." Turning slightly the camera panned over her shoulder to capture the enormity of the occasion.
"Estimates range from 900,000 to one million, Trevor. And there are many more outside the gates. You can see it is standing room only around the entire arena."
"That's big enough for over 25 football games at one time," Trevor quipped.
The banality was not lost on Briana, who zapped him back in a fiercely competitive tone, "It'd never work. No beer vendors. Seriously though, the GNN eye in the sky can give us all a better scope."
In the truck, Grant swiftly commanded, "Camera four, set aaaand...take."
The aerial shot of the entire area was impressive as the throngs below, circling the center stage, stretched out like an army of ants with the aisles giving the impression of spokes in a bicycle wheel. As the helicopter's camera zoomed in toward the stage the viewer could see the layout much more clearly. The saucer shaped arena diameter measured 550 yards. At the hub of the circular portion was a massive white marble round table serving as the center stage. Around it was the huge crescent moon of Islam bordering the left side of the table in deep red with the accompanying gold star on the other side of the stage. On the table stage, roughly 30 yards in diameter, an expanding glow of a white orb with gold rays fused out to the edges. Circumventing the stage was a huge white cross to represent all of Christendom. It spanned the entire complex north, east, south and west. The Tao symbol and the Hindu script were brilliant in the mid-morning sunlight.
As the camera pulled out further where one could see the entire area covered with people shoulder to shoulder who resembled slowly moving pixels on a great circular monitor. Despite the density of flesh, the viewer could still make out - on the blacktopped outdoor arena floor below - the symbol of the Star of David. It had been painted in rich, royal blue that extended out from the center table, superimposed by the huge white cross, to six points where pyramid-like tents rested at the edge. Overlapping these two gigantic symbols was the outline of a Buddhist wheel in yellow stretching out to equal points of the Jewish symbol where six more white pyramid-like tents stood. Around each tent a contingent of VIPs and security personnel stood waiting. From the air the panoramic scene below looked like a giant clock as the eye-in-the-sky chopper banked away from the sun to get a clearer shot for the viewers.
The director had cut to camera one focusing on a white tent with the Vatican flag flying above and Trevor took the cue from the truck. "The Pope is inside tent one. Ever since releasing the encyclical Ut unum sint the Holy See has been moving toward this historic occasion."
"The key to this," Briana edged in, "was the Russian Patriarch's invitation earlier last year when the new Pope and Patriarch finally met in Moscow, Trevor." Camera two locked in on tent two with the Russian flag waving above.
"They had to, Briana. Those were tense times. John Paul II had passed on. The guts had just been ripped out of Jerusalem. Everything was in ruins. Earthquakes had devastated the west coasts of the Americas, hurricanes the east coast of the U.S. and the Caribbean. World heads had no where to turn but to the religious leaders for help."
"You're right, Trevor, and the subsequent overthrow of the Iraqi regime in May by the Shiite Sons of Allah gave this land back to the Chaldeans." The director had now switched to the eye in the sky which displayed a panorama of the scene catching both the Euphrates in the foreground and the Tigris on the horizon in the distance, filtered by the sun rays.
"That paved the way for this historic meeting here today between the greatest religious leaders of the world at the birthplace of the Father of the Faithful Abraham here in Nasiriyah. It was known as Ur back then, Briana."
Suppressing an urge to fire back a retort for his patronizing way, she reined in the emotion and interspersed, "This was the only place the last Pope didn't visit during his grueling, year-and-a-half historic pilgrimage through Salvation History."
"Oh to see the Holy Land as it was just a few short years ago when he was hailed by Christian, Jew and Arab, Briana."
"I'm afraid we never will again, Trevor. But, I dare say, this turnout and staging is, to say the least, impressive."
"It's got to give you goosebumps."
"I'm above that, Trevor, but it is an emotional moment. We're just minutes away. The band is getting ready to strike the opening tympany." Camera two was now focused on the Jewish tent. "Inside this tent waits the chief Rabbi of Israel."
"Few would have thought this would ever occur. But after the fall of Jerusalem, the Israelis and Arabs had no where else to turn. They had to come to an accord to exist."
"It proves, Trevor, that necessity is the mother of invention," as camera one zeroed in on the Islamic tent.
"Yes, Briana, and Rome's landmark talks with Greek, Anglican and Lutheran Church leaders have made this day possible. I must admit I'm surprised the Hindus and Buddhists have agreed to the pact." On cue the tent containing the representatives of the Lutheran, Hindu and Buddhist creeds were captured by camera two.
Camera one panned the remaining tents. "This is the Protestant contingent. Here all sects excluding Lutheran, Anglican and Baptists can be found. This is where the Latter Day Saints, Seventh Day Adventists, Christian Scientists, Evangelicals, Unitarians, and all the other churches are grouped."
"That includes the New Agers, correct Briana?"
"Yes, Trevor, there's even a Wiccan representative if you can believe that."
"How about voodoo?"
As Grant focused camera two on the Greek Orthodox Church Briana was directed to keep up, "No word on that, Trevor, but now we see the Greek Patriarch's tent with his entourage. You can see them mingling near the entrance."
"They're getting antsy, Briana. We all are."
Following her director's cue she followed the camera shots, "In the next tent is the Grand Imam from Mecca, and next to him the Baptist Synod representative."
Trevor had to pipe in, "I understand that took some arm-twisting to get all the Baptist factions to agree on one Synod leader."
"It's the spirit of cooperation, Trevor," Briana confidently asserted, "it's like a fever that has caught on with all faiths. They all want peace and brotherhood...sisterhood, too. Now, in the last pyramid the..."
Trevor sensed he was being shortchanged by this vixen, whom he intensely disliked. Colleague or not, ego egged him to cut over her lines again. It was a bad habit that she would address with Grant once off the air. For now Trevor had the mike. "In just minutes each will exit his respective tent with his entourage and begin processing toward the center round table where they will all sign the documents presently at each place on the table. The flags of every nation will be dipped at that moment each religious leader has finished signing."
Briana broke in again, "This document you refer to, Trevor, is, of course, the great document "One Eucharist." It is being called the Magna Carta of the new millennium."
"Under the agreement that has taken years to form, all the religious leaders here will be on equal footing. I must admit I'm a bit surprised the Pope would give up so much, Briana."
"Really he hasn't, Trevor."
The last bit prompted Ben to blurt, "Like hell he hasn't!" as the few inhabitants left at the Spigot were now enthralled by the event in progress. As the co-anchors continued to bring their audience up to date on the details of the ceremony that would soon take place, Corrie and Ben and a few others in the bar were now focused on the small screen, mesmerized by the scope of the occasion. Pat was noticeably restless.
"Come on, Corrie. Let's get the hell out of here and go to my place. It's still Halloween by my watch."
"Shh, Pat," Corrie motioned with a slender finger to her full lips. "I want to watch this. This is really an historic moment, and we're getting a front row view by being here with Benj."
"Okay, a few more minutes, then we're outta here. We're history, and so is this place. Sorry, Benj, didn't mean to hurt your feelins'. Must be the goblins messin' with my head tonight."
O'Fallon's blue eyes met Pat's - eyes that spoke of wisdom and prudence, and which, with that one stare, Pat's bravado shrunk as he meekly agreed to stay a little longer. He tried to focus his attention back to the screen. It wasn't easy. Possibly the envy bug had bitten him. He might have been among the journalists there this morning were it not for his editor. Sconced any idea of sending Pat. Eh, the heck with 'em all, Pat groused in his thoughts. Sour grapes has a way of staining the psyche.
Briana had responded to Trevor's puzzled look on-air. "He has made it known he is willing to lessen his powers in return for their recognition of the Primacy of Peter. So in effect he's really pulled off a miracle by getting all to bury the hatchet."
"But will it last?" Trevor cornered her with that superior furrow to his brow.
"Time will tell. The reason it is called 'One Eucharist,' Trevor, is because the Greek word for Thanksgiving is eucharistia. And this document 'One Eucharist' will allow for Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and New Ager alike to equally acknowledge their God Who alone deserves all Thanksgiving and Praise."
"Isn't that what the last Pope initially proposed in the new millennium for Jerusalem before the eruption?"
Briana looked somewhat perplexed. Static had reoccurred and she hadn't heard Trevor's last comment. The director was frantically leveling the controls trying to rescue her audio. Trying to save face, Briana bravely tried to cover up. "It leaves us with the question: will we ever learn? I hope we finally have."
A puzzled frown curled Ander's lower lip. He assumed she was ignoring him. But he wasn't going to panic. He trouped on, "What makes this so enticing is that this universal recognition still allows each faith to preserve their traditions and rituals and share them with others." A blank stare from Briana prompted Trevor to continue, "What we are getting, ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, is the best of both worlds. People the world over are thrilled by this. They will all be among the People of God, the brotherhood of man."
Briana had regained full audio as well as instructions from the truck. "East and West have been in schism for nearly a full millennium. And nearly a half millennium since Martin Luther and Henry VIII formed their own churches. Today they all return in peace."
As they continued, countless inhabitants from the supply tents took their strategic places in all areas of the giant compound including all areas encircling the center stage. Military personnel had been so careful to scan every citizen for weapons, artillery. Little did they know what would go undetected.
"Briana, pardon me for being skeptical, but there have been so many overtures toward peace however that it seems everyone's walking on eggshells. Hundreds of thousands of people from major faiths have made their pilgrimage to this sacred site from all over the world. Everyone is praying and keeping their fingers crossed."
Briana broke in, "Excuse me, Trevor, but we can see the individual processions beginning from their respective pyramids. Don't know if you can hear me over the trumpets. The music is loud so we'll just let the audience soak in the ceremonial procession."
Next issue: First Chapter - Episode Seven
"White Smoke, Black Fire!" is an original work, registered with the Writers' Guild and all rights are the exclusive rights of The DAILY CATHOLIC who owns the copyright. Because of the nature of the internet and the importance of sharing, we hereby give the reader permission to collect and disseminate by e-mail each episode as it is presented in each issue of The DAILY CATHOLIC, provided that one includes this 1986, 2001 copyright statement and source - www.DailyCatholic.org - and take nothing out of context, nor reproduce it for profit. This work, fifteen years in the making, is a work of fiction that replicates the reality of today in many ways. However names, characters, places and incidents are used fictionally and any resemblance to actual persons and events, except those recorded in history, are purely coincidental.
WHITE SMOKE, BLACK FIRE!